Kansas wins at Texas to tighten its grip on the Big 12

Kansas wins at Texas to tighten its grip on the Big 12

Three of Kansas' first six Big 12 games this season were on the road against some of the top teams in the nation's deepest conference.

The Jayhawks finished that stretch atop the league anyway, which does not bode well for the rest of the Big 12's chances of preventing them from capturing an 11th straight conference title. 

Kansas pulled away from 17th-ranked Texas for a 75-62 victory in Austin on Saturday afternoon to improve to 5-1 in Big 12 play. With Iowa State losing at Texas Tech, the 11th-ranked Jayhawks will enter next week alone in first place, a game up in the loss column on Kansas State, Iowa State and West Virginia.

Considering Kansas has lost only five home games in the past eight years and is already done with road games at Iowa State, Texas and Baylor this season, the Jayhawks have to feel good about their chances of hoisting another league title trophy in March. The toughest road games they have left in Big 12 play are at West Virginia on Feb. 16, at Kansas State on Feb. 23 and at Oklahoma on March 7.

The biggest reason Kansas has made a strong case that it's still the class of the Big 12 is because the position that has been its biggest weakness the past couple seasons has turned out to be one of its biggest strengths this year. Sophomore Frank Mason has seized the starting point guard job with his excellent dribble penetration, court vision and decision making and freshman Devonte Graham has proven to be a valuable reserve with his passing and outside shooting. 

The skill of that point guard duo was on display Saturday in Austin as both were on the floor together when the Jayhawks unleashed a 13-4 late second-half run to finish off the Longhorns. Mason and Graham had seven of Kansas' 13 assists and were two big reasons the Jayhawks had zero second-half turnovers and only three for the game.

Mason and Graham needed guys to pass to, and they had lots of options. Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander combined for 29 points and outplayed the heralded Texas frontcourt, while Brannen Greene provided outside shooting off the bench with four 3-pointers.

Kansas also was effective defensively by defending the paint and forcing Texas to win from the perimeter. The big, burly Longhorns weren't very good playing that style as they missed all but three of the 18 attempts they had from behind the arc and shot just 40 percent overall from the field.

Texas guard Isaiah Taylor scored 23 points and appeared to have finally put his early-season wrist injury behind him, but none of the other Longhorns were very effective. As a result, Texas falls to 14-5 overall and 3-3 in the Big 12, far from embarrassing yet not befitting of a team that began the season with Big 12 title aspirations. 

The final insult for the Longhorns came in the waning seconds when the pocket of Jayhawks fans in the arena serenaded them with chants of "Rock Chalk Jayhawk."

It was a fitting moment because these days even on the road, Kansas is feeling right at home.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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